If you’ve taken the Amtrak recently, you might have no idea that the United States used to have the largest and wealthiest rail system in the world. How did the US go from having luxurious, widely used passenger trains to the Amtrak system we have today?
Video producer Dean Peterson makes a 72-hour journey on Amtrak from LA to NYC to show its current state of operation. From getting kicked in the head by his sleeping seatmate to taking in sweeping views of the desert at sunset, Dean shows the highs and lows of being stuck on Amtrak for days on end.
Along the way, he explains the history of passenger rail in the US — starting in the problematic robber baron era to the US government’s takeover of passenger rail. Will the United States ever catch up to the rest of the world when it comes to train travel, or are Americans stuck with an underfunded, inefficient rail network forever? Join Dean on his journey as he sets out to find the answers to these questions and more.
The romance of train travel—meandering through stunning landscapes in the comfort of an elegant sleeper car—was always about prioritizing the journey rather than the destination. And while all that glamour has almost entirely given way to the convenience and speed of flying, the opportunity to take on one of travel’s greatest experiences remain; you simply have to book a train trip. And to extend and elevate that Old World fantasy, consider combining a journey by rail with an overnight (or two) in a historic train station hotel. The ease of being deposited by train at the doorsteps of your accommodations can’t be beat, and the best of these of properties layer on modern amenities atop centuries-old architectural majesty to make for a truly singular stay. Here are 11 train station hotels worth checking into.
All listings featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. This gallery was originally published in May 2013. It has been updated with new information.
Crawford Hotel, Denver – image above
The original Denver Union Station dates back to 1881. When it reopened in July 2014 following a $54 million renovation, it also welcomed the Crawford Hotel, a 112-room property spanning both wings of the building. Many of these hotel rooms were repurposed from existing structures and feature historic design elements. For instance, the third-floor rooms were previously offices; old safes are built into many of these walls. Rooms on the fourth floor, on the other hand, occupy attic spaces so they come with exposed bricks and massive wood beams. The station’s Great Hall is quite stunning, too, and acts as the public lobby of the hotel. Look for the 2,300 plaster columbines (Colorado’s state flower) and 1,200-pound chandeliers—recreations of the originals from over 100 years ago.
For the first time in more than two years, Amtrak is resuming service on one of its most scenic routes: The Amtrak Cascades route, which runs from Oregon to Vancouver and weaves through some of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful natural formations along the way.
The Cascade route was first paused in spring 2020, as travel between the U.S. and Canadian borders shut down due to the pandemic. Now, tickets are on sale again for the route’s relaunch on September 26. When the route first resumes, Amtrak will operate one daily roundtrip between Seattle and Vancouver, stopping at five cities in Washington state along the way: Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mount Vernon, and Bellingham. (Normally the full route runs from Eugene, Oregon, up to Vancouver.)
Two years ago, Amtrak was facing a “near-death” experience, Stephen Gardner, CEO of the national passenger rail service, said at a briefing last week with the Association for a Better New York. Both business and travel leisure rapidly grinded to a halt, causing ticket sales to drop 97 percent in a matter of weeks.
Now, the agency is seeing an unprecedented demand for Amtrak seats and rapidly moving to add service to new cities across the nation.
Ridership on the Northeast Corridor is only down 15 percent from 2019 levels, with some routes surpassing pre-pandemic levels. “It’s really very positive that even though the world has changed so much in Covid, we see really strong interest in passenger rail and a whole new generation of riders coming into the network,” Gardner said.
By Carl Nolte, June 18, 2022, Updated: June 18, 2022 10:40 a.m.
The long vacation trip to Europe fell through. Too complicated. So now this season’s vacation plan calls for something different: short getaway trips around the West.
And the best so far has been a quick trip to Santa Barbara by train. Something different.
It was the Sailor Girl’s idea. She’s my companion and the navigator on small adventures. “We’ll go first class,” she said, “in one of those little rooms. It’ll be fun.” She didn’t have to say it twice. I’m a believer in the gospel according to Edna St. Vincent Millay: “There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take, no matter where it’s going.”
We rode Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, down to Santa Barbara on Friday and back again on Sunday. The Starlight is a long-distance train and runs 1,377 miles every day down the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. So we just did a portion of the run, enough to get a good feel. It’s not our first time on the Starlight, and every trip is a bit different.
Nearly 500 miles of Alaska are ready for you to see this summer now that the Alaska Railroad returns to its full summer service.
It’s been two years of reduced travel seasons, but this summer, there will be three daily routes as well as regular flagstop service (which allows passengers to get on and off the train at any point in some of the state’s most beautiful wilderness regions with the wave of a flag — literally) and chartered cruise trains.
The Ideal Way To Visit The Best Of Alaska
“We’re excited to return to a full season of daily summer trains, to give our guests more opportunities and flexibility to get out and travel Alaska,” said Alaska Railroad Marketing Communications Manager Meghan Clemens in a news release.
The routes will welcome you back to Whittier and Seward, the airports in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and connect you to national parks, charming towns, and parts of the Chugach National Forest you can only get to by rail. Daily routes will connect you from the coast of Seward to Fairbanks in the interior.